My brother James is a Tour de France fanatic. He’s obsessive about it. So, on one bright June day we set off for Mont Ventoux just because it’s ‘on the tour’. The ascent begins in the small town of Malaucene in Provence and rises steadily. As we drive up I notice numerous cyclists, one on a monocycle, also making the climb. Mad, I thought. The road curves, hairpins and soon leaves the tree line behind. On one side there is a precipice, on the other rock and not much room in-between. I daren’t look either left or right to see the magnificent views.
|The other mountain|
We make the final climb to the summit. I find I’m hanging on to the car door handle. For some reason it makes me feel safe. The logic of this is as off-the-planet as I feel. But I don’t want to fall off the edge, so I keep hanging on.
At the summit there’s a cycle-jam. We do a three-point turn in no space, with only oblivion for pavement. We set off again. The road rises and then disappears. All I can see over the brow is blue sky. I throw my arms out as I try to press myself through the back of my seat. My brother just chuckles to himself and drives on slowly. At the heart-stoppingly terrifying moment when we reach the brow I slam my eyes shut…the car hairpins left and continues down the steep slope. ‘I can see where the road is,’ James says. I’m still hanging onto the car door handle and just staring at the car’s bonnet.
|Homage to Tommy Simpson|
|Mont Ventoux kissed by cloud|
Later, firmly settled in my camping chair at just a few feet above sea level, I’m calmer. A refreshing cup of tea and I’m feeling brave enough to pick up James’ camera and look at the photos for the first time – but then, I change my mind.